REVIEW: Holy Esque – Holy Esque EP

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Artist: Holy Esque
Album: Holy Esque EP
Genre: Rock
Label: [unsigned]

Scottish newcomers Holy Esque have come from nowhere to launch this riveting debut EP into the world. A dark, intoxicating, and exhilarating affair, the self-titled effort features four tracks of glamorous, brooding intensity. It’s not entirely perfect, with hit-and-miss vocals undoing some of their fine execution and one song in particular not coming together at all, but it is exciting and relevant, and signals a band most deserving of your attention.

The band’s potential is obvious from the opening strains of “Ladybird Love,” which mixes its fairly basic instrumentation well so as to sound much bigger and more impressive. The sound is rolling, eager, and enthusiastic, with a keen stream of vigor and liveliness coursing through the music. Pat Hynes’ vocals, as noted above, don’t immediately endear. He sounds somewhat strained and forced next to the naturalistic flow of the music, and yet there’s a world-wearied, throaty flair to his singing that makes the song a lot more rustic and sincere. This, in turn, allows it to combine an old world sound with a more modern and vibrant sensibility and pique interest right away. “Rose” is led by a crisp solo guitar that injects depth into the instruments. Hynes is a bit more hurried here than on the album opener, and it doesn’t suit him, but the music itself is so fresh and vivid that one can overlook this. The song matures halfway though and adopts a guarded, introspective stance; thus evoking a more loving tone than the cooler opening notes might have implied. This concealed complexity is what affords the EP its appeal – it isn’t catchy in an obvious way, but has an intricate and consuming depth that begs the listener’s full attention.

“Loneliest Loneliness” is the only misfire on the Holy Esque EP. The instruments and voice don’t combine well, making for a disjointed and clumsy execution. The band is clearly aiming for something more intensive, as the song retains the piecemeal beat and draws out Hynes’ already borderline creaky vocals. It lacks the sensitivity to make it work. The singing is also at fault on “Prophet of Privilege,” but the music finds its feet again. This track has the same brooding, even rhythm that has characterised the EP but adds a more obvious undercurrent of joy. Even with the repetitious notes and unfairly desperate vibe evoked by the vocal line, it is an endearing effort and rousing finale. Indeed, it might be harsh to single out Hynes in this regard. He does manage to add an earthier and grittier presence to the music but ultimately, he sounds too uncomfortable for the record to really come together. A little more focus next time and Holy Esque will soar.

This EP is a simmering and seductive offering, and could be the best sixteen minutes of music you’ve yet played this year. Set some time aside and get involved.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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